Thursday, 3 May 2012
Interview with Rachel Connor (Includes Giveaway!)
I got to know Rachel Connor online a while ago, and when I heard about her debut novel Sisterwives, I was very excited to read it. I pre-ordered my copy and I pleased to say it lived up to expectation and was one of my favourite reads of 2011.
I am delighted to have Rachel here on my blog today for an interview and international giveaway of a copy of her book.
Hello and welcome to Ramblings of a Rusty Writer.
Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself
Having been a University lecturer in English and American literature, I now live in Yorkshire with my family. I juggle writing novels and radio drama with working for the Arvon Foundation, where each week I get to meet a new set of students and tutors who attend our residential creative writing courses.
What is Sisterwives about?
The main plot is concerned with the polygamous marriage of Tobias, a glassblower and his two wives: Rebecca, the daughter of an Elder, who is dutiful and practical; and Amarantha, younger, beautiful and spirited. But it’s also the story of the whole village and the journey of how their spiritual community came about. The community’s suppressed secrets emerge through the course of the narrative, surprising the reader and (hopefully) making him/her rethink assumptions about marriage, polygamy and faith.
How did you come up with the idea of writing a novel about this sort of community of people?
The polygamy aspect was inspired by an interview I heard on Radio 4 with an escapee wife from a fundamentalist Mormon compound. It struck me that it wasn’t clear cut: the woman felt trapped by plural marriage and desperate to leave yet was bereft at having left behind her sister wives. I wanted to capture some of that ambivalence. I’m also fascinated by the ways in which people live together. Each year, I visit a rural community (not polygamous!). The joys and the challenges of communal life, as well as the routines that create the fabric of their days – rearing cattle, growing food, making sure there is enough wood – have, in part, informed the setting and context for Sisterwives.
Do you draw on personal experiences when you are creating your characters and plot lines?
I don’t know a writer who doesn’t, in some way – even if the world is entirely different from their own! Certainly, in Sisterwives, it’s a purely imagined place and yet each character is in some way an amalgam of me, people I know and people I might have seen but never met. When it comes to plot: I’ve never lived in a polygamous marriage but I do know about envy and the double edged-ness that female friendship and intimacy can bring with it. All that informs the novel in a way I didn’t quite understand until I was writing the draft.
Did you do much in the way of research when you were writing Sisterwives?
I read quite a bit on the history of Mormonism and on the experience of contemporary polygamous Mormons still practising in the US today: that was a brilliant insight into how polygamous family units co-exist. I also did some reading about ‘off-grid’ communities in the UK, to give me the correct detail about energy and self-sufficiency. But mostly, the place came from my imagination: that was definitely the most challenging part – to make it feel like the world itself was ‘real.’
How easy do you find it to market your books? Any tips for other authors?
I love the marketing aspect of writing – the standing up and speaking at events, connecting with readers and other writers through social media. Really, it’s about communicating with people. The main challenge has been time: how to juggle that with keeping up with the new writing, and all the other things in life. I always feel there’s more I should be doing! I suppose my main tip would be to do it little and often; set aside specific times in the day/week purely for marketing purposes, whether that is writing a new blog post, doing an interview or ‘hanging out’ on Twitter – and stick to them. I’m quite disciplined when it comes to Twitter and Facebook. I make sure I limit my time on there, then disconnect from the internet to get on with the business of writing (otherwise I’d be on there all day!). I’ve been ill recently and, unable to do much else, really got into Pinterest, a kind of online pinboard. It can be quite addictive; for a writer it’s a brilliant way of building up a visual profile of your work.
You can see Rachel's Pinterest boards here.
What is your top tip for aspiring writers?
Expect to write many thousands of words before coming up with anything that is good enough. Writing is a craft; it requires an apprenticeship like any other. Don’t rush it – and enjoy the process!
What has been your most rewarding experience since being published?
There’ve been lots of them! I’ve been invited to speak in very different places – from a pub in Leeds, to a lecture theatre at Manchester University. I’ve been a guest on local radio stations. But best of all I think is meeting real readers at book groups who have read the book. Hearing them discuss the issues and characters as though they’re real is rather bizarre but extremely rewarding. It means that the story exists outside of my head now!
Could you give us a summary of your next book?
It’s in the very early stages, so still open to change. But, briefly, it’s a historical novel: a fictional account of the work and lives of the ‘Glasgow Four’ – a group of early twentieth century Scottish artists (Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his circle). As in Sisterwives, it’s the women I’m primarily interested in and the choices they make: to embrace or reject motherhood, the sacrifices the obstacles they face in pursuit of their art and their responses to the artistic and cultural challenges of the day.
Thank you for joining me here on Ramblings of a Rusty Writer.
Rachel has very kindly donated a paperback copy of her book for an international giveaway. To gain entries for this giveaway please complete the rafflecopter requests below.
You can also buy the book on Amazon.co.uk, The Book Depository or your from your usual retailer.
a Rafflecopter giveaway